“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” blends original rock music with the story of President Andrew Jackson’s life and the founding of the Democratic Party in a raunchy, uproarious comedy that will leave the audience thinking about the root of democracy.
The Warehouse Theatre’s production features some of the show’s original Broadway production team, including Mike Sablone, the Warehouse’s producing artistic director, who shepherded the musical from its first draft through its run on Broadway in 2010 as it garnered two Tony award nominations, and Andrew Scoville, the director of the Warehouse show and assistant director for the show’s Broadway run.
With two of the Broadway production’s significant influences involved, the pressure is on for the actors.
Benjamin Taylor Davis will be playing Andrew Jackson in his third production at the Warehouse Theatre. “It’s both an honor and absolutely terrifying. They have such a history with the show and they were there during its development,” Davis says. “So I think you get a lot of the insights that you don’t normally get. To have the point of reference of someone who is so knowledgeable on the material both historically — the story of Andrew Jackson — and the show itself is really helpful as an actor.”
The cast, crew, and production team have worked to ensure that the show is current, relevant, and a new experience for the audience.
“The show is going to be different no matter what happens. Even if we tried to recreate it, it wouldn’t happen. We’re doing it in a different time than it was originally done, so I think that feeds a lot into what we’re creating,” says ensemble member Emily Grove. Grove will be making her Warehouse debut in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”
One of the greatest challenges for members of this cast is creating a political and historical show that is both funny and entertaining but still tackles the issues head-on.
As the seventh president of the United States, most people are familiar with Jackson, but as Grove explains, there is more to him than meets the eye. “I think that we all have a $20 bill; we’ve all seen Andrew Jackson and think we know who this person is. It’s interesting to see him and his story come to life in a new way,” Grove says.
The show focuses on Jackson’s campaign trail to the White House, his relationship with his wife, Rachel (played by Crystal Stewart), populism, the Indian Removal Act, and the harsh realization that governing is harder than it looks.
Scoville, Davis, and Grove all agree that the timing of the show is both impeccable and challenging.[gj_gallery]
“The zeitgeist kind of feels similar now,” Grove says. “We have Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump that kind of feel like outsiders, and you can twist populism to kind of fit who you want. It feels very contemporary and current with politics right now.”
“I think it’s a lot of history repeating itself with this current administration. Jackson was the first drain-the-swamp president. He was the first to get rid of his whole cabinet. He was the first president to rely on family and friends. He was the original ‘Make America Great’ candidate,” Davis says. “He wanted to get back to the ideals that started the revolution. He was the first people’s president, and he wanted to fight for the common man. He wanted to dismantle Washington and get Washington insiders out of office. A lot of these very populist ideologies were initiated by Jackson and are finding their way back into politics today.”
Through his performance, Davis hopes to tell the multidimensional story of Jackson. “I truly hope you’re rooting for this man, and then you see him fall apart,” Davis says. “It’s a three-dimensional story. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘Jackson is a genocidal murderer’ or ‘Jackson was an American hero.’ There are so many complexities within his legacy.”
Scoville faces similar challenges. As the director rather than an assistant director, he feels more responsible for the reactions of the audience as well as ensuring the cast and crew feel the issues and jokes are presented in a fair way. Scoville also is presented with the challenge of a new audience — many from the South, where Jackson was born — and working in a theater located within a region that once was part of Cherokee territory.
“The correlation between Andrew Jackson and Trump is definitely present in this space and unignorable,” Scoville says. “I think there’s also something that is unignorable, which is the way that the administration then, particularly the white men involved, dealt with the native population and the way that white people have the tendency to deal with people of color today. I think that’s another complication that has arisen based on the time we’re doing it now.”
Scoville knows that politics can be divisive, but he hopes to see the show bring people’s ideas together, because it has before.
“I think that this show can unify,” he says. “I’ve seen it unify people who like different kinds of theater, and people who have different points of view, but this show attempts to dig into what’s complicated about what makes people feel alienated from one group or another, and when it’s rooted in some form of nationalism — well, that’s what the show is all about.”
“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
When: June 8-30, times vary
Where: 37 Augusta St.
Info: 864-235-6948, warehousetheatre.com